The Names of Jesus

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The significance of the name

JESUS CHRIST (̓Ιησου̂ς Χριστός). The double title occurs only five times in the gospels, whereas it is very frequent in Acts and the epistles. In the gospels the title is used twice at the beginning of Matthew, in the opening v. of Mark, in the prologue of John and in John 17:3. The last occurrence has been questioned because of the strangeness of Jesus using it Himself, but the textual evidence is indisputable.

The separate names—Jesus and Christ—warrant careful examination. “Jesus” is the Gr. form of the Heb. “Joshua” יְהוֹשׁ֣וּעַ, יְהוֹשֻׁ֨עַ, or יֵשׁוּ, Yahweh saves, a name borne by several OT characters. It was a common name among the Jews in the time of Jesus. Jesus_Christ is generally distinguished from other bearers of the same name by the addition of the description “of Nazareth,” at least when first introduced in the gospel narrative. Mark, for instance, after using the title Jesus Christ in the introductory statement, refers to Jesus as having come from Nazareth of Galilee (1:9). A similar procedure is followed by Matthew, who nevertheless also used the description, not infrequently, in the body of the gospel. In all the gospels, the name Jesus is used alone in the great majority of cases. In the Acts is a mixture of uses. When the life of Jesus is mentioned, it is usually the form “Jesus” alone. Frequently, Jesus is identified as the Christ.

In Matthew 1:21, the Christian significance of the name is explained. It is seen as a divinely appointed name and its meaning is derived from the root idea of salvation—“for he will save his people from their sins.” It was not until later in the post-Resurrection period that the significance of this was recognized.

The other description, that of “Christ,” is of essential importance, because it at once makes an assertion about the human Jesus that differentiates Him from all other men. There had been false Christs, but only one true Christ. The word represents the Hebrew Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ, H5431), which means “Anointed One,” but had come to be used specifically of the anointed of God, who was to come in fulfillment of ancient prophecies. At this point it is the intent of this article not to discuss the variety of concepts current among the Jews regarding this messianic hope, but rather to denote its meaning in the Christian sense. There can be no doubt that the identification of the historical Jesus with the expected Messiah was the key to the early Jewish Christian understanding of the mission of Jesus. The name Jesus Christ carries with it therefore deep theological significance. One must consider not only the bare historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth, but also the interpretation of those facts.

Additional Perspectives

LITERATURE

Jesus Christ: The Founder of the Christian religion; the promised Messiah and Saviour of the world; the Lord and Head of the Christian church.

I. The Names.

1. Jesus:


2. Christ: